Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Help Me Howard: 2007 Top Problems
If you have problems, you are, of course, not alone. We all do, but do you ever watch Help Me Howard and wonder where your worries stack up with the rest of South Floridians? Tonight, Seven's Howard Finkelstein and Patrick Fraser take us through 2007's Top Troubles.
WSVN -- Patrick Fraser: "Hello, everyone, and Happy New Year. I'm Patrick Fraser, as we wrap up our tenth year of doing Help Me Howard."
Howard Finkelstein: "And I am Howard Finkelstein looking forward to another year of Help Me Howard."
Patrick Fraser: "You like that Help me Howard title, don't you?"
Howard Finkelstein: "Sure do."
Patrick Fraser: "Well, before we get to work this year helping people, we would like to take a look at seven of the most common problems we saw in the past year."
Howard Finkelstein: "And, by looking at them, maybe we can help you prevent getting taken advantage of."
Number seven, school troubles.
In 2007 we saw a big rise in the number of complaints about public schools. From a deaf girl dropped behind a shopping center and forced to take a dangerous walk to get to a day care, to a young girl with special needs in a classroom that resembled an abandoned building.
Patrick Fraser: "Howard, we got both those solved, but there is no magic answer for the diverse problems we hear about in schools. Got any solution?"
Howard Finkelstein: "Complain, complain to as many people in as many positions as possible and do it loudly. With budget cuts so severe, it's going to become even harder for parents to get what their children are entitled to so be heard."
Patrick Fraser: "At number six, a new complaint making the list, people getting fired."
Gustavo: "My boss tells me to give him my keys back, that I no longer have a job."
Gustavo thought he was doing a great job at work because that's what his boss told him. Maybe it's the economy, but we heard from more people than ever who had worked for years and were stunned to be fired.
Patrick Fraser: "Howard, in this state they won't get much help."
Howard Finkelstein: "The bottom line in Florida, unless you have a contract or you are being discriminated against, for example because of your race or gender, other than that your boss can fire you for any reason at all."
The fifth most common problem is one we can help solve, but the answers are as varied as the species we come across.
From possums invading a woman's property, to cats procreating and taking over a neighborhood, to dogs, to birds, to iguanas. Well, you name them, and we hear about them.
At number four, a very serious problem, medical insurance. People who need life-saving care and keep getting told by their insurance companies that they're not covered, it's experimental, it's not necessary, the excuses are endless.
Patrick Fraser: "Howard, this is one of the most frustrating problems. As I talk to people. It's heartbreaking, and every year it seems to get worse. How can you fight a faceless insurance company?"
Howard Finkelstein: "Don't accept their denials. Keep fighting, file an appeal, enlist your doctor to help you. Remember, they want you to go away."
At number three, dealing with the government bureaucracy.
From a soldier wounded while on duty who couldn't get his paychecks to a little boy who needed a new social security number to an 84-year-old woman who could not convince the state she was alive, to the man who said, "Let's just get rid of all these crooked politicians who keep stealing from the taxpayers."
Patrick Fraser: "A lot of people agree with Robert, but, Howard, how do you cut through the layers of red tape in the government bureaucracy?"
Howard Finkelstein: "In this case, go to the politicians you elected. It's their job to cut through the red tape for you, and if they don't, vote them out of office."
At number two, what we call the condo lords, condo commandos and landlords in the condos. It's usually about out-of-control power, hungry people trying to impose their will on everyone else. In the landlord/tenant disputes, it ranges from rats running around, to pigeons plopping in the ceiling down, to leaky pipes, and, of course, security deposits that should be returned but never are.
Patrick Fraser: "Howard, condos and apartments are both homes, but that's where the similarities end."
Howard Finkelstein: "In the case of condos, look at your condo documents, those rules and regulations dictate what everyone can and cannot do. If it's a complaint about a landlord check you lease."
And the most common problem we hear about, well, it makes sense, almost everyone has one: cars. Whether it's a repair shop that can't repair, a used car dealer that can't tell the truth, cars create more headaches than any other thing we hear about, so let's hear about a solution Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "Shop around. If you're buying a used car and you find something you like, think about it for a day or two. If it's a repair, get the estimate in writing, and if someone tries to tell you don't worry about the writing in the contract, just get up and walk away."
Patrick Fraser: "Thanks, Howard, for ten years of Help Me Howard. At one point, we figured out we had 65,000 requests a year for help, and this year it didn't slow down."
Howard Finkelstein: "You know, Patrick, that's amazing. Some problems have decreased, like internet issues, but many more have taken their place."
Patrick Fraser: "This year, odds are you will have a problem. If you can't solve it, give us a call."
Howard Finkelstein: "We have been here to help, we love to help, and, if we are lucky, we will be here another ten years trying to help."
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